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Rookie Game 1 Takeaways – Golden Knights 7 Avalanche 6

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

There’s a lot to talk about after the first of three Golden Knights rookie games. When that happens, we tend to take the easy route and just chuck them all in one article using bullet points. So, here are 13 bullet points, one for every goal scored in the Golden Knights 7-6 win.

  • Erik Brannstrom is incredible. This isn’t new, but every time this guy steps on the ice he’s excellent. Tonight he tamed back a bit of his aggressiveness yet still found ways to make a bunch of offensive plays including a dandy of a goal.
  • The Golden Knights opted to put Brannstrom on the PK (something we wouldn’t project him to do much at the NHL level due to his size). Coach Rocky Thompson (Chicago Wolves) explained why they did it…
    • “Ultimately, it’s going to take time for him on the penalty kill, but we wanted to see some situations. We dialed it back a little bit later in the game, but we definitely wanted to see. It’s definitely a place where we see him in the future is being a top two defenseman. When you are a top two defenseman you have to be well-rounded, so you can beat those minutes.” -Thompson
  • Nic Hague had an interesting night proving something we haven’t gotten to see a ton of because we haven’t seen them play actual games against other teams, and that’s his PP prowess. Playing on the Golden Knights lesser talented PP unit, he scored twice from the exact same spot. (Also, I highly enjoyed the celly on the first one.)
  • The first period was a perfect example of a team playing “Golden Knights” style hockey. Incredibly fast in transition, pushing the puck out of the defensive zone quickly, and capitalizing on mistakes. It did in the rookie game what the Golden Knights did to many teams last year, overwhelm the opponent. Hence the five-goal lead after 20 minutes. Coach Thompson says they started to cheat out of the system a bit and that’s why the lead evaporated.

  • I think I’m finally starting to figure out what to watch for with Cody Glass. Usually, with super high end picks, especially centers, you expect to see them on the puck quite a bit. He does it from time to time, but where he does good best work and where he really impacts plays is with his work rate, hockey sense (he’s in the right spot a lot), and his smooth skating. He made a number of little plays that really excited me, including one that led to a goal. I’m still kind of waiting for that “top 10 pick takes over rookie game” moment from him, but I’m starting to think I’m waiting for something that’s never going to happen. That doesn’t mean he’s not great and effects the game in many ways, he just does it in a different way.
  • Nick Suzuki didn’t do much in this game. However, Thompson explained after the game that he was playing on his off side (the side he’s not used to playing). He’ll play the other (correct?) side in tonight’s game. Expect more out of him. I’ll do it here because I know people like predictions, Nick Suzuki will score a goal in Rookie Game 2 vs the Sharks.
  • Suzuki was a center when drafted. He often plays center in Juniors. He’s not a center for the Golden Knights. They aren’t planning on letting him play center in this camp and he’s unlikely to move back there as long as he’s with Vegas. He should be a better wing in the NHL than he would have been a center so the move is good, but it’s a possible excuse why sometimes he doesn’t seem to get in the action as much in these types of games.
    • “Right now he’ll be sticking on the wing. Right now I don’t know (if he’ll be a center in the future). What we are going to do is get Nick on his strong side. He played on his weak side side, tomorrow we are going to get him onto his strong side.” -Thompson
  • Maxim Zhukov was much better than the six goal stat line shows. He was excellent in the 1st period, and went on to make a few very good saves the rest of the game. Defensively the Golden Knights rookies were just hemmed in too much after taking the big lead and it skewed the score. Thought it was the best we’ve seen from Zhukov play wearing a VGK logo.
  • I still think there’s something wrong with me and not the player, but I just can’t seem to watch a game where I’m impressed with Lucas Elvenes. I focused big time on him in the power play drills in practice Friday and he looked awesome. Then in the game, aside from a few easy passes to Brannstrom that led to goals, I barely even saw Elvenes out there. Prospect writers have been raving about this kid all summer and still, I can’t find it. I don’t need goals or even assists, I need to see him impact plays, and lots more of them if I’m going to start changing my malleable opinion on him.
  • Zach Whitecloud is becoming like the great ref in a soccer game. When it’s over you think, “man I don’t even remember the ref being out there” and that’s a good thing. With Whitecloud, he’s the kind of guy that does his job, does it very well, but nothing he does shows up on the score sheet or the highlights. He had a bunch of solid defensive plays and continued to show his mind is right to be a good NHL defenseman. He makes the right choice pretty much every time. If you never say his name in an entire game, that’s a good thing because no one has ever found their way past him into a dangerous spot. Not sure that’s an ideal way to push McPhee to give him a roster spot out of camp and throw a Merrill or Hunt on to waivers, but I’d be shocked if Zach Whitecloud isn’t a consistent NHLer by the end of next year.
  • One last thing. I watched Saturday’s game from ice level behind the goal the Golden Knights scored very few of their goals on. It’s not the normal place I watch games so, I’m not even fully sure I trust what I was seeing. However, I learned a ton from sitting (standing) there. Being able to see little plays like stick lifts, tie ups, board battles, and hits gave me a didn’t feel for that game than I’m used to getting. I’m going to try and watch the games again from the “TV” stream that was provided and we’ll have to see if any of my opinions change.

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4 Comments

  1. Keith Magnuson

    Good stuff, Ken. Thanks

    And BIG congrats on the Bin Ball tourney !!

  2. Alex Adrian

    My thoughts on your thoughts

    1. I’m glad to see the coaching staff sees Brannstrom as a top pair defender. I feel like the fanbase in general prefers Hague because of his size and junior numbers, and while I think Hague is definitely trending in the right direction, I do view Brannstrom as a star in the making. He’s incredibly intelligent, his fundamentals of passing and puck control are terrific (that stretch pass to spring Wong and Quinney was arguably nicer than his goal), his defensive awareness is great for a guy with his play style, and despite his size he does have a significant amount of mass that makes him harder to knock off the puck than you’d expect. He’s gotten experience playing against grown men and it shows. Though the stream cut out 60% of last night’s game, Brannstrom to me looked like a man amongst boys and when a player looks like that in games like this, it’s always a very good sign.

    2.) On Cody Glass, yes he plays a cerebral game that is in many ways reactive and proactive but hardly…active, if that makes sense. Like you said, it rarely looks like he’s taking over a game until he pops up out of nowhere and makes an incredible play (his forechecking pressure that got him the puck for his assist on a terrific pass to Bouchard was tremendous). I think the issue is the difference between a top center and a complimentary second line center IS how much of an overall impact a player can have on the game. Meaning, if you take an Anze Kopitar, or a Ryan Getzlaf for in division examples, even when they aren’t showing up on the score sheet they make an impact in the way they carry and roam with the puck in the offensive zone and can single handedly break down defenses with their sheer on puck presence. And by playing that way it opens the team’s offense up and it allows for them to produce at the rate that they do. And then off the puck they’re actively involved defensively or on the forecheck. Glass, in my view, has the defensive activeness on so that’s good. But I think if he wants to get that billing of top center so he can be like a Mark Scheifele, he needs to be more assertive in the offensive zone and try to do more to take matters into his own hands.

    3.) I’ve said this about Suzuki since the first prospect camp: his play style is really not suited for the center position. Few players play center playing the way he does (Tyler Johnson is the only one that immediately comes to mind). I feel the team sees this as well and I wonder if it’s to Nick’s benefit to switch to the wing for the remainder of this upcoming season. He could surprise and work fine as a center in the NHL but I think the safer bet for his career is to get comfortable playing on the wing.

  3. Daniel Foley

    I was in knights shoot twice behind the glass. I’m going to have to disagree on Elvenes I thought he played smart heads up hockey and was using the body when necessary. I was more impressed with Hague and Brannstrom but Elvenes looked like the real deal to me. Wong also – scrappy small and fast he was a little spark plug out there.

  4. Bent Hermit

    One of the biggest things that stood out to me was how the top 4 Dmen are a lot farther in their development than the any of the forwards are. Granted Whitecloud is older then most of the forwards. If they continue on developing at this rate VGK is going to have a very talented group of Dmen.

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